The Neosho City Council reviewed and expressed support for a pair of ordinances banning the sale or distribution of synthetic stimulants and synthetic cannabinoid herbal incense within city limits.
The ordinances, drafted by city attorney Steve Hays, were only a discussion topic Tuesday evening and will come back before council in the April 16 council meeting for a first reading vote.
The council voted in June of last year to approve a resolution opposing the sale of "synthetic cannabis products" in town, however, the city currently does not have an ordinance on the books to prosecute the sale of those products.
Synthetic stimulants are packaged and legally sold as products such as bath salts, though Hays said they have similar effects of narcotics such as cocaine and heroin. Meanwhile, synthetic cannabinoids, sold as herbal incense, is used as a legal alternative to marijuana. While the state of Missouri has banned the sale of some synthetic marijuana products, including K-2, makers have changed the chemical compounds to get around the state law.
"As everyone is painfully aware this was an extremely hot topic last year and coming into the end of the year," Hays said, referring to the increase in synthetic drug related incidents in Neosho in 2012. "Although it appears that a lot of the substances are not in the public they are in fact still there and law enforcement is still coming across them."
Proposed ordinance 215.680, aimed at bath salts, states that it would prohibit "the sale, offer for sale, purchase with intent to sell or public display for sale of synthetic stimulant bath salts, synthetic cathinones, synthetic amphetamines and other synthetic stimulants that mimic illegal drugs."
Meanwhile, proposed ordinance 215.690, focused on synthetic marijuana, prohibits the sale, purchase with intent to sell, or public display for sale of synthetic cannabinoid herbal incense.
"There is a very fine line between being overly broad but yet enforceable and I think that we've made it there," Hays said. "I believe this would probably stand up."
The council also heard from Rev. Jim Lowans, the director of Teen Challenge of the Four States, a faith-based addiction rehabilitation program.
Lowans commended council for following through on work to create an ordinance, after he had previously approached them at a candidate forum in March 2012. He reminded Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson, Councilman Steve Hart and Councilman David Ruth, who were up for re-election at that time, that when asked if they would support legislation banning the sale of synthetic drugs they had each said they would support it.
"I certainly do not have my head in the sand I know that this ordinance is not going to stop the use of synthetic drugs," Lowans said. "I wish it were that easy, but every day I deal with drug addicts and I will say in these past six months we've had the first four students coming in that were hooked to synthetics. And the stories they tell me of their experiences are as bad as any story I've heard from meth use, heroin use, or any other type of drug."
Page 2 of 2 - Lowans said he hoped for unanimous council support for the proposal and that Neosho could stand out as being a "leading city" in fighting synthetic drugs.
Hays said for the ordinance to be effective, surrounding communities would also need to get on board.
"I certainly would not have a problem sharing the ordinance with the communities surrounding us," Hays said. "A person could drive eight or 10 miles and get the same substance and then bring it right back to Neosho. That really doesn't assist too much with the enforcement in Neosho."
Councilman Charles Collinsworth said while drafting the ordinance may have taken time, the city's intention was to create a law that would stick.
"The idea was not to just pass a resolution that didn't have any teeth," Collinsworth said. "The idea wasn't to pass something that they were going to be able to beat a day or two later, sometimes to get it right these things do take a considerable amount of time."